Vagle retires from classroom, but will continue coaching

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 5/17/00.

Virg Vagle The winningest wrestling coach in the state is calling it quits in the classroom.

Virg Vagle, who may be better known for his time spent around the edge of a wrestling mat or on the sideline at a football game, will retire from Paynesville Area Middle School at the end of this school year.

He has spent 35 years in the classroom, primarily as a seventh grade mathematics teacher. At least half of his teaching load has always been seventh grade mathematics. Over the years, he has also taught math at the high school level, as well as physical education in the elementary and middle schools.

For the past decade, since before the new middle school building was completed, he has taught seventh grade mathematics and seventh grade physical education.

Vagle grew up in Lake Bronson, in the northwest corner of the state. He attended Oak Grove Lutheran High School in Fargo, N.D., for four years as a boarding student. (Lake Bronson is 150 miles from Fargo.)

At Oak Grove, Vagle was the captain of his high school basketball team. The school didn't offer wrestling at that time. Vagle continued his football career at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

When he graduated from college, he accepted a teaching position in Paynesville because he liked what he saw of the school and the community.

In addition to his teaching duties, he served as a football coach for 32 years (30 as head coach), as wrestling coach for 35 years (34 as head coach), and as a seventh and eighth grade baseball coach for 18 years.

In March, the Bulldogs took part in their 16th state wrestling tournament under Vagle's command and returned with their fourth state title. Paynesville also won state titles in 1987, 1990, and 1991.

Through the years, Vagle has amassed more victories as a wrestling coach than anyone in state history. Currently, his record stands at 566-114-5. He has already been inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Vagle also led the Paynesville football team to the state semifinals in 1979.

Vagle plans to continue as the varsity wrestling coach. "I still enjoy dealing with kids," he explained, "and I don't want to give it all up."

"It'd be tough to walk away from all the energy and enthusiasm that young people have," he added.

He has no definite plans for how long he will continue to coach wrestling, but said it would depend on his health, effectiveness, and enthusiasm.

As for teaching, Vagle said he will miss several aspects of school life.

Vagle will miss the interaction he has with other teachers, staff, and administrators. Vagle offered words of gratitude to Carol Miller, who has been the math aide in his classroom for eight years. He also joked that he and other recent retirees-Dick Realdsen, Steve Sullivan, and Rick Deegan-could comprise a fine shuffleboard team if need be.

Vagle also will miss the students. While the junior high has a reputation for being a difficult level, he likes their energy and their senses of humor. Seventh grade is never boring, he said.

Seeing students mature academically, socially, and mentally Vagle finds particularly satisfying. Teachers must take satisfaction in such progress, he said, or they need to find another career. In wrestling, too, Vagle enjoys the success of his athletes after high school just as he does their victories on the mat.

Vagle, 57, still enjoys teaching, and feels he could continue. But, having qualified for retirement, he plans to try a new career, with fewer bells and a less stringent schedule. For the past several years, he has been working as a registered investment advisor. He plans to continue to do financial planning, as well as coaching wrestling.

Along with his wife, Pat, Vagle enjoys traveling. Over the past five years, they have visited all 48 states in the continental U.S. on extended motorcycle trips. They have also driven in Mexico and all the border provinces of Canada.

This summer, Vagle and his sons will also be building a new hunting cabin on hunting land they own near Lake Bronson.

"I've enjoyed every stage of my life," Vagle said, "and I'm looking forward to the next one."

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